Excess North Atlantic Tropical Storms Likely in the Future

First Posted: Dec 01, 2012 05:36 AM EST

A study done by researchers at the University of Iowa predicts that tropical storms in the North Atlantic will become more intense in the future. 

Tropical storms cause danger in several ways. They are most often accompanied by a damaging wind and extremely high rains. Although they are considered to be less powerful than hurricanes; these storms can still be quite destructive, causing property damage, injuries and even death.

This study was led by author Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, and his colleague Gabriel Vecchi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, N.J.

According to the researchers, the study is a compilation of results from some of the best available computer models of climate.

"We wanted to conduct the study because intense tropical cyclones can harm people and property," Villarini says. "The adverse and long-lasting influence of such storms recently was demonstrated by the damage Hurricane Sandy created along the East Coast."

Using the output from 17 state-of-the-art global climate models and 3 different potential scenarios, the study examines the predictable changes in the North Atlantic Power Dissipation Index (PDI). The PDI is an index that integrates storm intensity, duration and frequency.

"We found that the PDI is projected to increase in the 21st century in response to both greenhouse gas increases and reductions in particulate pollution over the Atlantic over the current century. By relating these results to other findings in a paper we published May 13, 2012 in the journal Nature Climate Change, we found that, while the number of storms is not projected to increase, their intensity is," he says.

"Moreover, our results indicate that as more carbon dioxide is emitted, the stronger the storms get, while scenarios with the most aggressive carbon dioxide mitigation show the smallest increase in intensity," he says.

The study was published in an early online release in the Journal of climate, the official publication of the American Meteorological Society.

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